Some marketers have decided to be creative in their approach to influencer marketing and have begun to create their brand ambassadors themselves using artificial intelligence.
These virtual influencers are computer-created characters whose “personalities” are entirely fictional. They’re paired with animated images from digital artists to accurately re-create the subtle features of human faces. Some companies are building their own influencers and creating their own characters which they have creative over.
MEET Lil Miquela
A working example is Lil Miquela, a 19-year virtual music influencer who releases music and engages with 2.6m followers on Instagram. Lil Miquela was created by the L.A.-based firm Brud, formed in 2016 and the face of the “CGI influencer phenomenon”.
She’s a regular face in fashion magazines and works with a number of luxury brands. More than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela’s songs on Spotify every month. Lil Miquela has conducted a number of interviews and until her creators revealed her true origin, many of her fans were convinced she was a real person.
Another virtual influencer is Blawko (also created by Brud.) This influencer covers half of his face, creating a mysterious allure and describes himself as a "young robot sex symbol." What is interesting about this influencer is that they are also in an on-off relationship with another CGI-created influencer called Bermuda.
How Companies Are Using Virtual Influencers
Not only are influencers being created, but companies are also using their brand ambassadors as their own influencers. KFC created a virtual Colonel which shows a younger version of the Colonel as an influencer, to mock the current influencer culture.
The human portrayed character posts from KFC's official account, which has 1.6 million followers. It places him as a virtual influencer who is chasing the dream of selling chicken-based out of Louisville, the company's headquarters.
Virtual Influencers Working With Brands
Robot influencers are becoming big business on Instagram, with Coca-Cola and Louis Vuitton using video game characters in their ads. New research looks at the most popular virtual influencers and how much they could be earning. Lil Miquela is set to earn £8m before the end of the year, 252 times more than the UK’s average annual salary.
CGI influencers are also working with real-life influencers. Lil Miquela recently appeared alongside model and influencer Bella Hadid for a Calvin Klein commercial.
Traditional influencer marketing has taken a hit due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Many social media creators have become limited to what they can create due to social distance measures. Due to this, it does make virtual influencers more appealing as we don’t know what will happen in the next 6-12 months trying to get back to “the norm.”
There has been a rise in virtual influencers over the last 4 years with some becoming bigger and creating a dedicated following. More companies are creating these influencers to sell products to consumers and using these virtual influencers as brand ambassadors. The influencers are active and engaged with their community, have personalities and relationships similar to "real" influencers. Well, known brands are working with these virtual influencers creating validity and continuing to build their profile and worth to other companies.
These virtual influencers are not only in North America and have become more global and international in nature. Ghana created the first African influencer, Aba Wils and Japan have a popular virtual fashion influencer, Imma.